Long before Jim Harbaugh wore his trademark khaki pants as head coach of the Stanford Cardinal, San Francisco 49ers, and Michigan Wolverines, he was one of the gutsiest quarterbacks who ever donned the Indianapolis Colts Blue and White.
Whenever the pass rush swallowed up Harbaugh and dinged him up, it wasn’t uncommon for him to spit blood on the sidelines.
Jim Harbaugh coughed up blood in -15 wind chill after a big hit. Harbaugh would stay in the game, the 9-7 Colts beat the 13-3 Chiefs in the 1995 Divisional Round. pic.twitter.com/ehadTqpDEn
— Trevor Woods (@WoodsFootball) January 15, 2022
He then nonchalantly asked his head coach Ted Marchibroda what the next play was.
It was game on for the undaunted Harbaugh.
He eventually earned the “Captain Comeback” moniker when he wore the Horseshoe from 1994 to 1997.
It was a well-deserved nickname, to say the least.
The Colts Ushered In The Captain Comeback Era In 1994
Harbaugh signed with the Colts prior to the 1994 NFL season.
In the years leading up to Harbaugh’s acquisition, it seemed Indy was set at quarterback with hometown hero Jeff George.
Although George had a rifle of an arm, he clashed with teammates, coaches, and fans.
The Colts were a sub-par team that averaged just five wins with George under center from 1990 to 1993.
The Colts, who were fed up with George’s antics, subsequently jettisoned him to the Atlanta Falcons in 1993.
Enter Captain Comeback.
Harbaugh initially backed up Don Majkowski in the 1994 NFL campaign.
When Majkowski struggled as the season wound down, Colts head coach Marchibroda called Harbaugh’s number.
Indy finished 1994 with a mediocre 8-8 win-loss record.
Harbaugh’s 1995 NFL season was one for the ages.
His former head coach with the Chicago Bears Mike Ditka once dubbed the fearless Harbaugh “the ultimate competitor.”
Ditka’s assessment was spot on.
Although Harbaugh’s 17 touchdown passes didn’t exactly blow up the stat sheet in 1995, Harbaugh led by example.
Whenever he broke his nose or got injured badly, he just shook it off and focused on moving the sticks.
The Colts snuck into the postseason with a 9-7 win-loss record in 1995.
Harbaugh led Indy to upset wins over the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs during their memorable postseason run.
Harbaugh almost became the first quarterback who led the Colts to their first Super Bowl since they moved to Indianapolis in 1984.
Regrettably, Indy lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, 20-16.
— Steelers Depot 7⃣ (@Steelersdepot) December 24, 2020
Harbaugh’s desperate last-second Hail Mary pass to wide receiver Aaron Bailey could’ve changed the franchise’s fortunes forever.
For a while, it seemed Harbaugh defied the odds and scored a miraculous victory.
Alas, replays showed Bailey – who was swarmed with Steelers defenders – couldn’t hold on to the pigskin.
Although the Colts didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, their improbable postseason run was one for the ages.
Harbaugh led the Colts to a Wild Card appearance in 1996.
Unfortunately, his sub-par performance in 1997 prompted the Colts to trade him to the Baltimore Ravens the following offseason.
The 3-13 Colts drafted Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Peyton Manning in 1998 and the rest, as they say, was history.
Harbaugh’s Colts set the tone for future versions of the squad.
With Manning under center, the Colts became a force in the AFC for the better part of a decade.
While Harbaugh never blew up the stat sheet, he was leadership, toughness, and resilience personified.
Apart from accuracy, those are the traits you want in your franchise quarterback..
Captain Comeback certainly made his mark on the Colts during his short yet memorable stint in the Circle City.